By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency
[Vatican City – CNA] – At the end of his Wednesday audience Jan. 18, 2023, Pope Francis asked people to join him in praying for persecuted Christians around the world.
The pope said on Jan. 18 that he was praying for Father Isaac Achi, a Catholic priest who died after bandits set fire to his parish rectory in northern Nigeria.
Armed bandits attacked the parish residence at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kafin Koro, Nigeria, at 3 a.m. Jan. 15. Another priest at the rectory, Father Collins Omeh, escaped the building but sustained gunshot wounds. The Diocese of Minna has said that Omeh is responding to treatment.
Speaking to pilgrims in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis said: “I ask all of you to join me in praying for Father Isaac Achi, of the Diocese of Minna in northern Nigeria, who was killed last Sunday in an attack on his rectory.”
“So many Christians continue to be the target of violence: let us remember them in our prayers!”
Pope Francis also extended a special greeting to French-speaking pilgrims from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he will be visiting at the end of this month.
On the same day that the priest was killed in Nigeria, the Islamic State bombed a church service at a Pentecostal church in the eastern Congolese town of Kasindi, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 60.
In a message of condolence after the bombing, Pope Francis expressed his “compassion and closeness to all the families so hard hit by this tragedy.”
The pope’s upcoming trip to Africa will provide an opportunity for him to further highlight the ongoing violence against Christians in the region.
On his second day in Kinshasa, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with victims of violence from the eastern region of the DRC, where more than 5.5 million people have been displaced from their homes.